Grafton Street: Wednesday: noon
The rain has stopped its unremitting misery for a few hours and Dublin is at its wintery best. Despite the wet streets and darkly-clad lunchtime crowd, there is a distinct Christmassy feel. Even in early afternoon the light is dull enough to show off the chandelier-like garlands of silver lights on Grafton Street laneways, twinkling already.
Bewleys pile the mince pies high and the flower ladies on Chatham Street have poinsettias for sale alongside their lilies and roses. In every shop I enter, people are happy and friendly and talk to me as if I were a regular. But this is not Christmas cheer: this is just Dublin.
The southside shopping precincts show little sign of the recession. Marco Pierre White’s restaurant seems busy for a lunchtime and the jewellery stores along Johnson Court appear to be doing well. No 50% off stickers anywhere; no shops closed up. It’s business as usual. Perhaps it is different in the more downmarket Henry Street.
I visit the Government Publications shop and buy a couple of copies of our Constitution. The one I have must be thirty years old and long out of date. I think we still lay claim to the six counties in that version. I flick through the little blue book, with the English words on the left-hand pages mirrored as Gaeilge opposite. It gives me a degree of comfort, of things being as they should be, to hold a copy of the basis of the nation in my hands.
I narrowly avoid purchasing something in Louis Mulcahy’s artisan pottery shop, in the Powerscourt Centre, in Avoca Handweavers, but I capitulate in (of course) Dubray Books. It’s hard to resist a good bookshop.
The old stalwart restaurants of Wicklow Street are still in business. Marco Pierre might be in town but the Trocadero, the Cedar Tree and QV2 remain too. O’Neill’s pub is exactly the same as always but the Old Stand has had a facelift.
A fake O’Donoghue’s pub has appeared at the bottom of Grafton Street to fool the tourists. The real Dubs will know that the original one still packs them in every night on Merrion Row, round the corner from where we went to University.
(can you spot which this is?)
I sip a coffee and contemplate my home town. I have not lived here for over twenty years and many things have changed, but not enough to alienate me. Dublin is what made me. It is still home. But the coffee’s still shite.